Esri moves into smart phone mapping with Geoloqi buy

Esri now offers an API that returns geographically specific information

Ramping up efforts to serve the growing market for mobile Web geocoding services, geographic information systems (GIS) provider Esri has purchased mobile location based services provider Geoloqi. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Esri plans to combine Geoloqi's Web 2.0 technology with its own traditional GIS capabilities in order to offer advanced mobile location services for smartphone applications. Geoloqi staff will be merged into Esri's own workforce, and Esri has designated Geoloqi's Portland, Oregon, headquarters to be the new Esri research and development center for mobile geocoding services.

Esri "does a great job for GIS, and increasingly [mobile Web] startups are understanding how powerful Esri's tools are. But [ESRI] speaks a different language than application developers, and we'll be here as Sherpas to converge the market better," said Amber Case, who was the co-founder and CEO of Geoloqi, and is set to become the director of the Esri Research and Development Center in Portland.

Formed in 1969, Esri has been a long-time heavyweight in traditional GIS software, offering advanced geomapping capabilities to large organizations such as governments, schools, energy companies and other enterprises that work with geospatially coded data. The company says it has more than 35,000 customers.

Through its ArcGIS online services, Esri has recently started expanding its capabilities to work on mobile platforms as well, which have been consuming more geospatial data thanks to popular services and apps such as Google Maps, Foursquare, Yelp. Esri's purchase of Geoloqi will help the company make further inroads into this emerging market, Case said.

Geoloqi provides a background location tracker for mobile devices, a technology that sends alerts, or triggers, whenever the user enters a predefined geographic area. Developers inserted the technology into their own programs by way of an SDK (software developer kit).

With the news of the acquisition, ESRI has launched a new geospatial API service built using both Geoloqi technology and components from Esri's desktop ArcGIS GIS software. The service, when given an address, can return coordinates or triggers for the area around that address. It can also execute reverse lookups, in which, when a latitude and longitude coordinate is provided, returns a specific address or place name

The API could be handy for building applications that find other resources pertinent to a given geographic area, such as nearby restaurants or weather alerts, Case said. Geoloqi provides basic details pertinent to the area mapped, such as zip codes or the names of cities, and the developers can use these coordinates as the basis for geospatial searches using the developer's geographic-specific information.

This service "solves a hard problem for developers," Case said. To build this service from scratch, "you have to geocode the entire world -- all the different territories and countries and counties -- in order to get that information back from latitude and longitude," Case said.

Esri also used Geoloqi's technology to develop a new alternative mapping library for the Apple iOS mobile operating system. Apple's own mapping library, has gotten a lot of criticism lately when it replaced Google Maps in the newly released iOS 6.

Over time, more Geoloqi services will incorporate additional features from ArcGIS, Case said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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